Logan Municipal Council members voted during their meeting on Tuesday to create a subcommittee to explore the idea of using voting districts in future council elections.
“Because we are in the middle of an election, they would start to do their work in January,” said Council Member Amy Anderson, who proposed the idea. “That is what I would think would be a good way to address this.”
Tuesday’s vote and discussion came after Council Member Jess Bradfield announced during the Oct. 1 council meeting that at the council’s next meeting he would present on a proposal to change Municipal Council elections from at-large to by-district voting.
Following this announcement, Council Chair Jeannie Simmonds said the ordinance was not far enough along to be a workshop item, so it was presented as an “other consideration” during Tuesday’s meeting.
During the meeting, a few community members tried to speak on the matter during the public comment period. However, council procedures are not to discuss any items on the agenda during this time, so Simmonds did not allow for the comments.
City legal staff said this protocol is because allowing agenda items to be discussed during public comment creates a de facto public hearing that has not been noticed to the residents.
Bradfield tried multiple times to have the council suspend the rules regarding the public comment or move his presentation forward on the agenda. He was overruled by other council members, who opted to have the meeting conducted as previously outlined in the agenda and approved by the council.
When Bradfield’s proposal was discussed by the council, members Tom Jensen, Simmonds and Anderson all said they were open to having the discussion on voting districts but were concerned that right before an election was the wrong time for the conversation because it made the issue unnecessarily and inappropriately political.
“I think citizens should take into consideration the things that are important to them in candidates” when they are voting, Anderson said. “To me, the issue I have with this is when we raise an issue from council that draws attention to one of those specific things or a specific candidate, to me it feels like we are politicizing the work of the council, and that has always been my biggest concern.”
While discussing his voting district proposal in multiple venues, Bradfield has mentioned that only one of the candidates who filed for this year’s election was from the west side of Logan. Bradfield maintained at the meeting that he has not named this candidate specifically in discussions, however, it is clear this individual is Keegan Garrity. When Garrity announced his candidacy earlier this year, he said he was running at Bradfield’s encouragement.
“I have not disclosed a name or tried to use this to promote a candidate other than to say that the candidate running for office this year is an endangered species,” Bradfield said.
Bradfield was allowed to share his presentation with the council in an abbreviated form. During this time he outlined the reasons for his proposal, including general differences in population makeup, socioeconomic status and housing types between the east and west side of the city.
According to data Bradfield has collected, eight of the city’s 33 voting precincts consistently determine the outcomes of municipal elections. Bradfield also said that since 2009, there has never been more than one west-side resident serving as part of the five-member Municipal Council at a time.
Bradfield proposed the council either adopt a policy splitting the entire city into five voting districts or one with an east side and west side district, where two council members would be elected from each district and one council member is elected at-large. He said he is open to discussing other options as well, if his fellow council members have different answers.
After Bradfield’s presentation, Anderson proposed the subcommittee, which would be made up of the city’s legal counsel, the city clerk, chairs of the existing neighborhood councils and at least two Municipal Council members. The committee was approved unanimously by the council members in attendance and will begin work in January after the new council begins its work following the election.